Friday, January 18, 2013

Estate Sales for Dummies Part II

Estate Sales for Dummies Part I (rehashed, and, reposted here because I'm not about to make you go looking for a post from 2 years ago!) and Part II (all new!)
So, Estate Sales sound intimidating. But, good news, they're not! If you've never been, here is a quick rundown on what to expect. Basic scenario:
You arrive in the basic vincinity of the sale and start seeing yard signs with arrows. Follow them and hope for a good spot to park. If you've arrived early, you will either join a crowd lined up in the driveway or grab a "number" (a notecard or ticket being handed out by the estate sale crew. This lets you "save" a place in line for when they FINALLY start letting people in the doors...this may be an hour or two later!)
Once you're in the door, be polite (don't mow people down), but MOVE! The pricey stuff like jewelry and "primitive antiques"...vintage toys, knives, etc. will usually be in one of the front rooms with the check-out table(s). You want to get past this stuff and work your way to the basement/garage/upstairs bedrooms to find the real deals! If you happened to scope out the sale through photos on the online web posting, you should have a bit of an idea of where to go--make a bee-line for that brass bamboo bar cart that you saw in the pics...or for the shelf full of pottery in the basement (or was it in the garage?) no idea...just RUN until you find it!
Once you've seen it all...mosey on up to the payment table. Have cash, but be prepared to sweet talk a nice old man into taking your personal check if you don't have enough Benjamins (or Lincolns!) on you! If you're lucky, they'll take credit cards, but don't count on it. You think it's over at this point...but the fun has only begun--now you have to figure out how to fit it all in your car!
There, don't you feel better now? Nothing to be scared of! Now, on to a few tips to help you become a pro!
1. Know where to go.
The internet is your friend, my friend. I currently use, but give me a holler if you know of any other good sites! In smaller towns, the plain, old-fashioned newspaper would also be a good source. I initially thought that the photos posted with the sale listing took away much of the "fun" of estate saling....but then i realized it's pretty awesome to be able to spot an amazing couch and make it to that sale 2 hours before everyone well as to not drive 45 minutes for an "estate" sale that looks less exciting than the worst garage sale you've ever been to in your life, and is using the word estate in like the 18th definition down on the list: Estate, noun, house. Yes, it's at a house; no, that doesn't make it an Estate Sale. Bottom line: look at those pictures, realize they aren't photographing everything, so there may still be some (hopefully wonderful) surprises, but use them as a gauge. Compare all the sales happening the same morning, compare relative locations, and proceed to #2....
2. Make a plan.
I'm talking the day before...or days all means know what's up by Friday night...then get some sleep and get up early! Decide where you're going. Make a list of addresses. Put them in order of importance and/or location. Backtracking is not advised, but perfectly acceptable should several amounts of amazingness on opposite sides of the city be scouted out the night before. Hit up the ATM. Checks, hecks, even credit cards, are often accepted, but nothing talks like cold hard dolla-dolla bills! Which brings us to the next hint:
3. Flash Cash.
ONLY after trying to talk them down. Don't be a jerk about it, but there's usually a little wiggle room in price...maybe not so much at 6:55 AM on the first day of the sale...but often quite a bit late in the day and especially the 2nd, 3rd days of the sale. Keep in mind, lots of sales are 1/2 off EVERYTHING the second day. There are advantages...but don't start crying about the amazing things w/ SOLD stickers on them that obviously sold the day before. I mean, at some point, you *will* cry. Let's be honest. Just make your 1st day/2nd day attendance decision very, very carefully!
4. Companions
 Decide what kind of estating you want to do--going solo is great for swooping in and out quickly and efficiently..also if your potential companions have a shorter estate sale attention span than you do! But, having friends with similar taste to split up (you go to the basement, i'll run up to the attic) and well as extra hands to hold your well as to help you tie things onto the top of the well as to run in while you worry about well as to help you make a decision (is it really The Best Thing Ever?) well as to keep you company while you wait in the cold on a strangers front lawn for an hour just to get "numbers"...well, all these reasons are great reasons to bring a friend or two! (keep in mind, however, that the more people in the car, the less stuff you can fit in!)
5. Preparedness:
Take the largest vehicle possible. Also, have rope and bungee cords on hand--you never know when you may need to strap a table to the top of your car...or tie a trunk shut!
6. Further preparedness:
Bags, a jacket with pockets, coffee, water....Giant Blue Ikea Tarp bags are your best friend. They cost 69 cents at the store. Buy lots of them and take several with you...and make your shopping companions use them! Don't try to take a purse..just one more thing to carry and to keep track of. Pockets are great for mini tape measures, paint chips, etc. Coffee, water, bananas, etc...stay hydrated and fed if you plan on visiting multiple sales in one day!
7. Be NICE!
Everyone else won't be, but, please, keep your cool! Be prepared for people to try to talk you out of items while you're in line to pay for them...and for people to grab items and walk away WHILE you're standing there staring at them, trying to figure out if they'll "work" in your house. This brings me to #8....
8. When in doubt, TAKE IT.
Throw it in your bag, or swipe that price tag if it's a large piece of furniture. You can always change your mind and put it back before you pay--you can't snatch it from someone else, though, if they make up their mind about it a split second before you do!
9. Know your stuff.
What is it, what's it worth? Phones can be useful, I suppose...but when it comes down to it, who cares what it's worth if you LOVE it. A "$800" painting for $40 isn't a steal if it's $800 of ugly to you....and a piece of weird junk that shouldn't even be the $3.00 they're asking for it is worth $20 if it's The Best Thing Ever and you know exactly where you'll put it...that odd, ugly cherry to top off your room!
10. Be respectful...
That is, don't say mean things about decor, etc. if the owners of the house or the children of the (often) recently deceased owners are there (or, if not deceased, recently moved into a nursing home). It's great if the sale is being run by an estate sale company, but even if it is, the family whose "estate" is being sold off may be around, so keep it nice.
Okay, so what have I missed?  What are your favorite tips and strategies? Let me know in the comments!


Jesica Aniston said...

I believe a estate sales company must also take care of the pricing.

linda h said...

Sometimes if you see something you like in the pictures, and if you call the estate sale company, they might save it back for you. It helps if you E-mail them a picture of yourself as a three year old with an identical item.